Two vacant seats; two different reactions

Shortly after the Democratic slate of Steve Beshear and Daniel Mongiardo won the 2007 gubernatorial election, Senate President David Williams sent Mongiardo a letter urging him to resign from the state Senate so a special election to fill his 30th District seat could be held at the earliest possible time. Instead, Mongiardo waited until Dec. 11, Inauguration Day, to resign.

Mongiardo's decision prompted Williams to complain at the time, "It now will be late January at the earliest before his replacement can join the Senate, and that person will have no preparation for the job."

Williams also said a special election during the session "will undoubtedly politicize the beginning of the session and distract members from the bipartisan cooperation" Beshear and Mongiardo had been publicly promoting.

However, Williams has been strangely silent on the subject of quick special elections to fill vacant seats since Republican state Sen. Brett Guthrie won the 2nd District U.S. House race.

If he has called on Guthrie to resign to facilitate that process, it was not done publicly. And if Guthrie waits until Congress convenes Jan. 6 to resign his state Senate seat, his replacement cannot be chosen before Feb. 10, 10 days into the 2009 short session of the General Assembly.

A special election cannot be called until the seat is vacant, and the law says the election can't be held until at least 35 days after the issuance of the call (by the governor if the legislature is not in session or by the presiding officer of the chamber if the legislature is in session). Anyone elected Feb. 10 probably couldn't be sworn in until Feb. 12 or 13, due to the process of certifying the election.

That means voters of the 32nd Senate District would be without representation during the four-day organizational session in early January, any special session that might be held between the organizational days and the main portion of the session that convenes Feb. 5 and the first nine days of the main session. Even with no special session, the district would be without representation for 12 to 13 days of a 30-day session.

And I haven't even mentioned Williams' concern about a special election politicizing the opening days of the session. But I'm not too concerned about that, because they're going to be politicized anyway.

But it's sure is strange that, after the concerns he voiced so forcefully when it was a Democratic seat up for grabs last year, Williams remains silent this year when it's a Republican seat up for grabs.

Go to Kentucky.com to respond to columnist Larry Dale Keeling.